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Hummingbird party in Costa Rica… whose Latin names are these and why?

Once again American Ornithological Society supplement is out (here) and once again we are looking at what is new for Costa Rica, the country from where Lifer Nature Tours lead operations and hundreds of worldwide birders keep their updated life lists. So if you are one of those, you might like to read below about what is new with the 2020 AOS supplement.

The changes are quite simple for Costa Rican listers IF you only follow common English names but if you also enjoy Latin names, it becomes a bit more interesting:

ONLY TWO ENGLISH NAME CHANGED (here is where you need to get a pen and write a little side note in your bird book)

1- The new English name for Checker-throated Antwren (Epinecrophylla fulviventris) changes to Checker-throated Stipplethroat. The South American Classification Committee has changed the English names of all species in the genus Epinecrophylla from "Something" Antwren to the "Something" Stipplethroat. The rationale for this is complicated and derives largely from the problem created by multiple species splits in the genus that created severe English name problems.

This proposal went through three iterative modifications – like they said "a lot of work for something so trivial", but there was no easy way to avoid this, and the rationale was that as long as a change was needed, it was worth the effort to have the best outcome.

So basically they decided to make a change because "it has to be done" to fit what is happening in South America with these antwrens. Anyway Stipplethroat is a very cool name and I think we all should be happy to have our only "Epinecrophylla" to get adapted to their kind.

2- The Paltry Tyrannulet changes to Mistletoe Tyrannulet (Zimmerius parvus).

This popular and generally common species occurs in several separate populations that correspond to recognized subspecies but these populations required additional taxonomic recognition. So, although the proposal was more "aggressive" and included several splits, they ended up basically splitting the species into just two species for now: Guatemalan Tyrannulet in northern Central America and our new Mistletoe Tyrannulet. With a range of most of northern Honduras, eastern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and a small part of Colombia bordering Panama.

The Mistletoe Tyrannulet (Zimmerius parvus) is common in gardens and forest edges, this one was taken in Arenal Volcano area by Juan Diego Vargas

Mistletoe Tyrannulet

If you, like us, enjoy the luxury of Latin names and want to invest some time understanding them, there are a few very interesting changes you might enjoy.


Most changes follow two recent studies of the generic classification of the Trochilini or “Emerald hummingbirds” because there are numerous instances of incongruences with respect to the DNA-based phylogeny of this group (Stiles et al. 2017), and this is the largest major clade of hummingbirds, with over 100 species.

The changes are as follow in all genus (no English names were changed here):

The lovely Canivet’s Emerald changes his genus from Chlorostilbon to Cynanthus canivetii. This is super strange because the other "Chlorostilbon" does not change. So Garden Emerald will stay the same. So now two of the most similar looking hummingbirds (tell apart basically only by bill color and range) are both in different genwera! For me, this is hard to believe.

Two interesting moves are the Coppery-headed Emerald and the White-tailed Emerald. They both now belong to the same genus as Snowcap! So, now, both are Microchera cupreiceps and Microchera chionura accordingly .

Coppery-headed Emerald (Microchera cupreiceps) is one of the only 2 hummingbirds completely endemic to Costa Rica. This one was taken in Monteverde Reserve by Juan Diego Vargas.

Coppery-headed Emerald (Microchera cupreiceps)

Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata), a truly stunning beauty long considered monotypic due to its amazing colors, this one was taken at Tapir Valley, one of the top "new" birding attractions of the Tenorio Volcano area. Photo by Juan Diego Vargas

Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata)